Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NBA All-Star Weekend 2014 - New Orleans

Recently I was lucky enough to head to The Big Easy for NBA All-Star weekend. With this being my third All-Star trip, I was prepared for the organized chaos that would ensue over the course of 4 long days in New Orleans. Between appearances, Foundation events, meetings, and walk-throughs, the whole trip is always a whirlwind, but a good one. It's one of those "pinch me" experiences that I still can't believe I am lucky enough to have.

What started out as another promising, productive trip got off to an unfortunate start when I landed in NOLA to some sad news. My grandma had passed away. When I left California, I knew she had a post-surgery infection, but never in my wildest dreams did it even occur to me that it was life-threatening. When I got that call from my family, I was in my room at the Windsor Court Hotel overlooking the buzzing city of New Orleans, and I fell to the ground in complete shock. How could this be possible? I didn't even get a chance to tell her good bye. I miss her sweet voice more than anything, but I still haven't really come to terms that she's gone. Luckily, I was surrounded by wonderful people on this trip who took good care of me and made sure I was ok at all times. I appreciated their support more than they know. 

So in between work commitments, we did make a little bit of time to see the city including sunrise runs through the French Quarter and nightly dessert on one of the top floors of our beautiful hotel. New Orleans is an awesome city and I got to experience a lot of the culture and eat a lot of the food, which was all amazing!
The entrance to my hotel, morning in the French Quarter & candle-lit dessert with a view. 
The view from my hotel room at the Windsor Court Hotel
Sunrise run along the river.
Every year, in every All-Star City, LeBron and his Foundation completely renovates a local Boys & Girls Club, and the Westbank Unit in New Orleans was one of our best ones yet. After briefing LeBron on the event and all of his to-do's, we executed an amazing reveal for the kids that was covered on the NBA's All-Star broadcast on TNT, which was a major score. Overall, it was another successful LJFF event. 
Images courtesy of my friends at the LeBron James Family Foundation. 
After a busy day, we headed over to a local art museum to help set up and manage LeBron's GQ Magazine cover launch party. It was a lot of work managing the outrageous guest list and incoming media requests, but it was all worth it when I got to walk LeBron on the red carpet. Just another one of those moments I will be telling my grandkids about someday!
Caught in a picture on the red carpet. 
Despite the rocky start, overall it was an awesome weekend full of experiences I am more than thankful for. But no matter where in the world I go and what adventures my job takes me on, nothing is better than coming home to Corey & miss Ruby. Corey was waiting for me with flowers since we were both gone for Valentines day, and Ruby was full of happy kisses. Coming home is always the best part.
xoxo Steph

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pixie's Perfect Proposal

A few weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of an extremely special day for my baby sister. It was a beautiful moment with the most beautiful background - but it's also sort of a funny story…
The scene: The Beach Retreat in Lake Tahoe. 

It all began with a text message from Pixie's boyfriend, Silvio, who casually mentioned he may need my help with something this weekend. Thinking it had something to do with moving furniture or keeping preggo Pixie happy, I quickly responded "No problem!" I had no idea what he was asking would change my sister's life forever. I called him that afternoon to get the details and it turns out, he was planning a surprise proposal in Lake Tahoe and he wanted me there to capture the whole thing on film. Sort of a big deal! So we met for lunch where I was given the details (including maps and diagrams - see below), and I proceeded to round up the troops (aka my other sisters/partners in crime). 
Exhibit A: Where we should enter from. 
Saturday around noon, we headed up the hill. As we do with most family road trips, we made a pit stop at Taco Bell to discuss the specifics of our covert mission. With less than two hours before show time, we started to get nervous - if she randomly sees us on the street or on a beach in Tahoe before the big moment, the whole thing would be ruined. We needed to execute this plan perfectly. No pressure. 

P.S. How random are the Taco Bell sauce packs we picked up at Taco Bell? It was a sign...
"Will you marry me?" and "You have chosen wisely"

After lunch, it was go time. With our hair hidden under hats and beanies, we did our best James Bond-type super secret mission impressions, but for some reason, as soon as we put on our shades and played the under cover part, we turned all white girl ghetto. I think it was because our quiet, reserved big sister started blasting DMX "Party Up" on her phone. This was the scene while we were waiting for Pixie and Silvio to arrive:
Man, I wish had video of this part. It was hilarious. 
Back to the story… so after what felt like hours of waiting (it was really only 20 minutes or so), we got the text from Silvio: "Here." It was go time. We knew our biggest challenge was going to be getting all the way out to the end of the pier without Pixie spotting us. And sure enough, every time we moved an inch, she would turn and look around, almost as if she heard us. Holding our breaths, we creeped towards the Pier, hiding behind anything physically large enough to hide us, but it was a struggle. Pixie kept turning around and taking selfies of the sunset, giving us a heart attack each time she turned her head. At one point, we thought it might be impossible to get all the way out there without her seeing us, so we tested the zoom lens on our cameras - we could get it, but it would not be the money shot we drove all this way for. Just as we started to panic, a young couple wearing large black puff jackets passed by us, and we saw our opening. After very quietly and awkwardly explaining that we needed to hide behind them as they walked down the pier, they agreed to give us a hand. As we scurried down the pier in a single file line, we continued to hold our breath and pause every time Pixie started to look around. This was the most stressful 10 minutes of my life! Once we got to the point of no return, we left it to Silvio to keep her facing the right way, and to get down to business. 

It was only a couple seconds before Silvio was down on his knee… thank goodness he stayed down there a while because the super zoom lens on the fancy camera I was using was too tight of a shot and I couldn't get both of them in the frame. After nearly backing off the deck and into the ice cold lake, I got the money shot:
Mission accomplished! Pixie was so happy and so in the moment that it took her a good 5 minutes to realize we were all standing right behind her. Once she finally noticed we were there, she started crying even more:
It was such a cool moment, and we were so happy to be a part of it. And now we have the most beautiful pictures and videos to always remember it. 
We are so happy for our sister and so thankful for Silvio. He is such a great guy and we are so happy to have him as the latest addition to our family. Love you both!
XO Steph

The End.
Well, I guess the official end was when Nellie's glasses got smashed into a million pieces by an oncoming car on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, but that's another story...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

On the juice.

Part of my New Year's resolution was to kick the sugar and eat healthier. While I haven't given up my old friend completely, I have done a much better job at substituting the candy and other unnecessary sugar for fresh fruit and veggies, thanks in large part to an addition to my morning routine: juicing.

I had read a lot about juicing in the past, but for some reason never really thought it was for me. I assumed it all tasted worse than wheat grass and besides, who has the time or money to grind up fruit and clean that machine every single day? But when Corey told me he wanted to start eating healthy again, I figured what better time than now to start using the brand new Jack LaLanne juicer that has been sitting on our kitchen counter, untouched, since our wedding more than a year and a half ago. So we headed to Sam's Club, bought nearly every fruit and vegetable they had, and whipped out the old instruction manual to get the juicer fired up. I have felt infinitely better ever since. 
In just a few short hours of research, I learned which fruits and vegetables were good for what and which ones juiced best. For example, I learned that celery is a good detoxifier, lemon is an amazing antioxidant, and that carrots are great for your skin while they also fight cancer and boost the immune system. I should have believed in the effects of juicing when my dad juiced daily while going through his cancer treatments. There are so many essential nutrients and vitamins in this stuff, it's no wonder I feel much more awake, have more energy, and have far fewer tendencies to snack on junk when I am juicing. 
Every day our juice is different, but I have found that the best and easiest fruits and vegetables to juice with are apples, carrots, cucumber, celery and strawberries. These all contain a good amount of juice and add just the right amount of sweetness to eliminate any bitter taste. We've also been juicing with kiwis, pineapple, spinach, oranges, lemons, broccoli, cucumbers, and any other seasonal fruit we can get our hands on. I haven't gotten all fancy with mixing certain vegetables to achieve a certain remedy for anything in particular, I just juice with what I have and haven't had a drink I didn't like. I honestly feel 100 times better when I start my day with fresh juice - I actually really miss it when I don't do it!
In terms of equipment, I mentioned that we got a really good juicer as a wedding gift, but a decent juicer can be purchased for less than $100. And in my personal experience, it is a worthy investment. Not only are we buying less food and less junk, but my body is now getting far more nutrients than it has ever gotten. 
The preparation and clean up is also what scares some people away from juicing, and I will say, it does take a little bit of time. At the beginning of the week, I wash and prepare all the fruits and veggies I can and store them in tupperware so that they are ready to be put directly into the juicer. This saves me SO much time each morning. And I've got the clean up part down to a science. The juicer comes a part into 5 pieces. I clean each one, leave them out on a towel to dry, and quickly reassemble when I get home from work so it's ready to go the next morning. Juicing probably adds 25 minutes to my morning routine, but it is more than worth it. 

With this lengthy health post, you'd think this was a paid advertisement for the juicing company, but it's not. I'm happy to share what works for me and maybe some of it will work for you. 

Happy juicing!
xo Steph 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's a Boy!

This weekend we got some more good news on the baby front. My youngest sister Janine and her boyfriend Silvio hosted a fab family dinner to announce the gender of their brewing bambino. In what is sure to be a new family tradition, my sister ordered a "gender reveal" cake to let us know the good news:
Following an informal family poll (in which more believed it would be a girl than a boy), there were a couple seconds of intense scrutiny while we all gathered around to witness the happy couple cut the cake. I was taking a video of it, and kept getting blocked by a bunch of heads as everyone crammed in closer, but I heard my older sister squeal, "it's blue!" as they pulled the knife out following the first cut. I would post the video here, but then I sort of lost my mind yelling "It's BLUE! It's BLUE!" and no one wants to hear that. I really wish I would have zoomed in on my mom's face because I remember her sitting there with her hands covering her mouth and eyes wide open. "I can't believe it! THREE beautiful grandsons!" she said. There were lots of hugs and OMGs before settling into a conversation about the generation of boys we are now living in.
I have to admit, I didn't really have a feeling one way or another on this one, but Nellie was so sure it was going to be a girl, she had bought a pretty little girl present - which she had to exchange on Saturday. I am just so excited to have another nephew that I can run around with and spoil. Plus, with every male our family pops out, our odds of a future major leaguer significantly increases, so I'm all about that. 

And then ultimately, the conversation somehow always steers to me: "Steph must be next!" and "Are you ever gonna have kids?" Well, maybe and yes. Yes, I am going to have kids at some point. Corey and I definitely want a couple kids of our own, but we're just not there yet. We are very much enjoying getting our house and careers in order, and just hanging out with the two of us and Ruby. That is enough for us right now. I suppose at some point I will just know when I'm ready, but we are in no rush. When my sisters start to lap me with baby #2, then we can start talking.
My nephews digging in to the cake!

For now, we're good with being uncle Corey and auntie Steeeee. 
xoxo Steph

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christmas catch up, New Year's resolutions, and our latest project

Phew! Is it just me or did Christmas come and go in the blink of an eye? Now here I am, two weeks later, finally sitting down to post about my holidays. For starters, they were wonderful. I had a glorious two-week break from the office with only an occasional conference call or two. I almost didn't know what to do with myself! So naturally I caught up on a lot of sleep, watched too much daytime TV, and did some online shopping -- all things I never do! I also got to spend a lot of time with my family, take Ruby for lots of walks, and got back on track with working out and eating healthy. This holiday break was exactly what I needed!

Just before Christmas, I headed back to Akron for my final work trip of the year. It was exciting for me to see snow around Christmas time, since I've never even dreamed of a white christmas, let alone experienced one. Even better, LeBron's team surprised me in my hotel lobby with a personalized singing Christmas gram complete with signs and a jolly santa. That was definitely a first, and such a nice surprise. 
I was in Ohio to manage media at the grand opening of the LeBron James Arena at St. Vincent - St. Mary's high school, LeBron's alma mater. He gave the school $1 million for the state-of-the-art facility that is quite frankly nicer than most college gyms. 
I had so much fun playing in the snow (seriously SUCH a treat for me!), and I always love working with the team in Ohio. It was the perfect way to kick off Christmas week!

When I got back from the trip, I hosted our annual high school holiday get-together with some of my favorite St. Francis girls. With all of our busy lives and expanding families, sometimes it's tough to make this meeting work - but we almost always find a way! It was a beautiful brunch with beautiful friends, and I may or may not have had one too many mimosas (thanks for keeping my glass full, Kari!).

Christmas with my family is always the best. After Christmas Eve dinner at Mikuni's with my parents and our family friends, Corey and I made the rounds and dropped off most of his Christmas presents since he had to leave for work Christmas morning. We also got to see some of the beautiful "Fabulous 40s" lights, where Corey promptly plopped down behind sponge bob for the only picture I have of him and I together this Christmas. Classic.
After we ate breakfast and exchanged our gifts on Christmas morning, Corey headed up the hill for work and I headed to my parents' for way too many presents. Santa still goes all out at the Rosa household! More than gifts, we just love to all be together. That's what matters most!

On Christmas Eve, we also got some amazing news Corey and I had been waiting on for a while… two of our good friends finally got engaged! Corey had taken Paul down to San Francisco to find a ring, so we knew it was only a matter of time for these love birds, and we couldn't be happier for them!
A candid photo of the actual proposal. Makes me so happy!

Even though Christmas flew by way too fast, we enjoyed a quiet New Year's Eve at our friends' house. But that was after Corey hosted our unofficial New Years party the night before since he had to work New Year's Day. So at midnight on Monday evening, Corey hugged everyone and wished them happy new year 24 hours early. That guy cracks me up. I have to admit, it was pretty fun and I'm glad we did it. Plus, Obie's ribs and my fettucine alfredo were pretty on point. By the time the real New Year's Eve rolled around, Corey and I were pretty much exhausted so it was nice to have a low-key night with good friends.
As for my resolutions, I don't usually make these because I regularly set goals for myself throughout the year, but the biggest thing I want to focus on this year is LESS CANDY. I've told you before that I eat like a 5-year-old when it comes to sugar, but I've been noticing my body doesn't quite digest it the way it used to. Judging by the content of my candy drawer, I may have slightly overdone it on the sugar scale. So less snacks, more fruits and veggies and more cooking at home. Corey is also eating super healthy right now, so it's easy for me to stay on track at home. Heck, he's the one that inspired me to do this in the first place. So instead of my morning cinnamon toast crunch, we've been juicing and I've been feeling wonderful. We'll see how long I can keep this up!

And that brings us to the present. This first week back to work has been a crazy one. On Monday, we got some sad news that my 98-year-old grandpa passed away peacefully in the hospital. While we were all upset, it's tough to be sad about 98 good years. Grandpa Warren was an extremely smart guy, and I will definitely miss his stories. For the first time in my life, last night I sat down to write an obituary and surprisingly, it wasn't sad. I was happy to be recounting his amazing life and just hoping my words would do him justice. 

Finally (I swear this novel will end at some point), this week we also kicked off our latest home improvement project - a complete backyard renovation. Corey and I are SO excited for it to be done… I'll be sure to share before and after pictures. For now, I'll leave you with a staged photo of me swinging an axe on the hideous man-made lava rocks that used to surround our pool. I've been wanting to do this since the day we bought our house and it felt pretty darn good!
Until next time,
xoxo Steph

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner & Christmas Decor

Now that I am no longer in the live television business, I actually get holidays off. This is still a relatively new concept for me, so I feel like I have to take full advantage of these special occasions and hang on to them as if they'll be taken away from me at some point. So this long Thanksgiving weekend, I soaked up every second spent away from the office and off the computer and it was such a nice couple of days.

I spent Thanksgiving at my parents' house with all of my sisters and their guys, my mom and dad, my grams, and my aunt. Corey unfortunately had to work, but he got to watch a little bit of the football games and got a nice Thanksgiving meal, so he made the best of it - but I definitely missed having my big guy around. Back at the house, we ate my mom's amazing meal (she never disappoints!), had far too many pieces of pie, and watched Monsters University. We rarely watch movies as a family because we all always have so much going on, so this is always a rare treat. 
I had to post a picture of the pie selection, which featured a homemade pumpkin pie by Nellie and Ben, complete with Brendan's hand print as the turkey on it. It was so good!!
And I always love chasing these two little rascals around the house! But they are getting so big now that they can push each other around in their red car!

For the past several years, the day after Thanksgiving means two things for me: christmas decorations and my annual high school basketball alumni game. So after a day spent decorating, I laced up my old college kicks and headed to the gym like old times (even though the gym at St. Francis looked completely different back in the day when I played there). Before the game, we were told this might possibly be the last alumni game ever, so I was bound and determined to win one before I hung up my shoes for good. With my dad coaching our squad, we took the Varsity team to overtime and ended up losing by one point. It was a bummer, but pretty good for a bunch of out-of-shape old ladies! Despite the fact that I couldn't raise my right arm, bend my ring finger, or move my legs the next morning, it was a good game. 
On Saturday I proudly admit that I stayed in my PJ's All. Day. Long. No makeup, no shoes, no worries. It was glorious. I put the finishing touches on my Christmas decorations and called it a night after watching four Christmas movies in a row. I just barely stayed awake long enough to see Corey when he got home from work around midnight, but I was so excited to show him our Christmas decorations. I must say, they do make our house feel nice and cozy!
Now it's back to the grind for a couple jam-packed weeks before I get a little Christmas break. I have a lot to do and not a lot of time, so I am getting after it this week!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the Christmas season!
xo Steph

Monday, November 25, 2013

The calm before the crazy...

This time of year is my favorite... Thanksgiving with its amazing food and family time leads straight to Christmas and its cozy weather, bright lights, and festive music. As wonderful and lovey-dovey as it all is, it's also one of the most stressful times of year. In between jam-packed work days and travel, I do my best to squeeze in decorating, shopping, and wrapping with enough time left over to sit and enjoy the christmas lights for a couple of days. But this year, I am vowing to get things done early so I can really enjoy the holiday season

I had planned to start chipping away at my christmas shopping list last week, but in between a 24 hour trip to New York and back and less than 48 hours in Ohio, the days just got away from me. So now it's time to lock in and get to work!

That's why I'm calling these next few days the calm before the (holiday) crazy. I'll have a slightly lighter load at work this week, which will give me time to slowly start checking things off my personal to-do list. That way once Thanksgiving ends and the mad dash to Christmas begins, I won't be overcome with that inevitable holiday stress. 

So let's all sit back, relax, and enjoy the season. Otherwise it will be here and gone before you know it!

Hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving week! I will be soaking up as much time by the fireplace and at the dinner table with my family as humanly possible!

xo Steph

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Johnny's 1st Birthday

I know I've said this many times, but I just cannot get over how fast time flies. Just the other day I was driving home from San Francisco like a crazy person in a rush to see my brand new nephew, Johnny Fontana. I still remember the night he was born like it was yesterday. I had missed the birth, but that meant I was wide awake when everyone else was exhausted from the long night they all endured. So I found myself alone, cradling sweet Johnny in my arms while his mommy and daddy finally got some sleep. I will never forget that night I spent in that quiet hospital room, cuddling and bonding (and snapping a few selfies!) with our new baby boy. I can't believe it's already been a year.
 My first night bonding with Johnny Fontana.

Fast forward to just a couple days ago when we celebrated Johnny's first birthday with a barnyard-themed bash. I had to miss a big chunk of the party to go celebrate my long-time friend's wedding in Lake Tahoe, so I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked, but it was a huge celebration with all of Johnny's closest family and friends that love that little cutie so much!
Johnny and his proud parents.

 Johnny loved his barnyard cake!
His favorite cousin Brendan wouldn't miss Johnny's party for the world!

There was a sort of funny moment when everyone started singing 'Happy Birthday' to Johnny, and Brendan just collapsed in tears. He HATES when everyone's attention is on him, and clearly on his cousin too. Not sure if he thinks everyone is going to attack, but he is NOT a fan of the birthday song!

I've made it a little tradition for myself to make the boy's banners for their birthday parties. I made Brendan's monkey-themed one, so I was happy to make Johnny a barnyard-themed sign complete with a cow, chicken, horse, and a piggy. Since I didn't get there until dark, I had to take a picture with the birthday boy and what was left of the sign the next morning. Unfortunately, the bottom row fell victim to the sprinklers, but you get the idea!
These precious boys are growing up so fast... I just want time to slow down! There's nothing I love more than chasing these little rascals around, pushing them on their motorcycles, reading them books, and rocking them to sleep. I am so lucky to be their "Auntie Steeeeeee"!
xo Steph

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013: Costume Party, Haunted House & Trick-or-Treating

Happy Halloween!

I love this time of year when the weather is changing and the holiday decorations come out of their dusty boxes. I've mentioned before that Halloween is my husband's favorite holiday, so we went all out this year with our first Halloween party, our annual visit to a new haunted house, and creating a cozy, creepy scene in our own house. 

This year is our first Halloween in our home, so I was so excited to decorate the house and make it spooky. I admit, I may have went a little overboard on the budget, but we started from scratch this year, and each year I can just get little things to add (that's what I keep telling myself atleast). Here is a little sneak peak at our spooky dwelling...
And yes, those are finger-shaped soaps in the bath room. Probably not necessary, but it's all in the details!

Building on the "Eat, Drink and Be Married" theme of our wedding, we decided to host our first annual Halloween Party, "Eat, Drink and Be Scary." I wasn't sure if people would be into the whole dressing up idea, so costumes were encouraged but not mandatory. And let me tell you, my family and friends blew me away with their amazing outfits! From my sister and her boyfriend dressing up as my mom and dad (they NAILED it! Silvio even called Pixie "Blondie" for the evening, which really brought it home), to my best friend's dad literally becoming Walt from Breaking Bad, everyone really played the part. And we LOVED it! It was such a good time and I was glad everyone was able to really get into the Halloween spirit.
Corey had been asking me to be Catwoman for years, so I figured it was time to make it happen :) P.S. How scary is his Bane costume?
Walt, "Mike & Michelle" and the Flintstones!
A Naked Butcher, Dexter, mini Batman, Goofy, Minnie and Mickie Mouse, a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, and even Ruby dressed up as a football player. 
Winners of our first ever costume contest. Their names have been "engraved" on the tombstone, which will be added to each year.

The costumes were so fantastic, it made all of the hours I spent on preparing appropriate "Halloween party" food more than worth it. I hit up pinterest for some inspiration and came up with an odd collection of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. 
Pumpkin spew (guacamole), Ghostly Oreo Cupcakes, Eyeball Punch, Monster EyeBalls (Caprese), and the spread. (Not pictures are the oreo eye balls, which didn't last long, as well as the main courses: pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, chili, cornbread, and a green salad).

After all the fun and excitement of the Halloween party, Corey and I had to keep up our annual tradition of visiting a different haunted house every year. We went to the old Roseville fair grounds to Callson Manor, which was a pretty good scare. 
And yes, Corey is STILL wearing his Bane mask!
P.S. This is why you don't take pictures on a cell phone at night!

On Halloween night, we headed to one of the best neighborhoods in the area to take Brendan and Johnny trick-or-treating. It was such a cool Halloween experience with all the houses done up and so, so many kids in costumes lining the streets. I loved seeing the little ones come to the door and say "trick or treat" in their little voices, followed by a "say thank  you" from their parents. Brendan's version of it sounded more like "tick-test" but he was close! And the way he says PUNkin (pumpkin) melted my heart.
Silvio's family was so kind to have us over for Halloween. The decorations were amazing and I loved his mom's tooth fairy outfit! (She's a dentist in real life!)

 Love Johnny's thumbs up!
I got the boys glow sticks, which they liked to chew on more than anything else. 
 LOVED all the decorations at the Lovatti's house!

We had 1,600 Capri Suns for trick or treaters and believe it or not, we ran out! The steady line of kids was unbelievable. We had never seen anything like this in our neighborhood, so it was a very cool experience!
After trick-or-treating, the boys had some play time with Mimi. They are getting so big!

My little Mickey and Batman made my day and made this Halloween one of our best yet. 

Hope you all are having a happy and safe Halloween!
xoxo Steph